In charge of the G8 presidency, Italy has helped oversee a renewed Afghanistan strategy as well as spearheading attempts to engage Iran, despite its nuclear ambitions. On a European level, Italy has also been working on better relations with Romania to ease tensions over immigration. Euronews spoke to Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Sergio Cantone, Brussels correspondent,euronews: ‘‘Franco Frattini welcome to euronews. The economic crisis and the credit crunch are serious problems for Europe. Especially in central and eastern parts of the continent where some members of the EU are facing the risk of default. As far as Italy, the current holder of the G8 presidency, is concerned how could this Eastern Europe problem be solved?’‘ Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini: ‘‘Well, first of all, the G7’s finance ministers conference held in Rome a couple of weeks ago has already established an important principle: it’s essential to have a global set of rules for all the main European and non European participants. Any urgent intervention should be based on these rules, for example, the rescue plans in the banking sector. This is the first important decision that I hope will be confirmed by the G20 at the economic summit in London.’‘ euronews: ‘‘What about a practical solution to the problem of capital out-flow from Central and Eastern European countries? These ex-soviet bloc members are also threatened by the risk of protectionism.’‘ Franco Frattini: ‘‘It’s true. Yielding to protectionism would be wrong; it’s not the right solution to counter this economic crisis. We have talked about being ready to sustain investments that one state on its own cannot afford, through a so-called European treasury bond.’‘ euronews: ‘‘On a practical level, how much money is needed by these countries?’‘ Franco Frattini: ‘‘With the right tools I don’t think these countries will go bankrupt. While we’re not able to distribute money, we can offer guarantees. And guarantees mean confidence.’‘ euronews:’‘There’s been a lot of tension between Italy and Romania. What can be done to stop the growing lack of confidence between the two countries?” Franco Frattini: “3000, out of 1 million Romanians who live in Italy are serving prison sentences in Italian jails. We think it’s fair that these people should serve their sentences in their own country, because Romania is a EU country, and Romanian prisons are European prisons. There are also Romanians who have committed terrible crimes, such as rape, murder, and hold-ups. These people will be tried by Italian courts. Saying that, there are another 950 thousand Romanians who live in Italy and abide by the law. We welcome them and we want them to stay in our country”. euronews: ‘‘Is it possible to force a Romanian citizen to serve their sentence in Romania, even if they have committed the crime in Italy.’‘ Franco Frattini: ‘‘Of course’‘ euronews:’‘ According to EU law, someone sentenced has a choice where they serve their prison term, don’t they?’‘ Franco Frattini:’‘Of course not, but in some cases there maybe exceptions. In 2006 I put forward a proposal as the European Commissioner for justice that was later adopted. That won’t come into force, unfortunately because of bureaucracy, until late 2010. This directive establishes that a convicted person must serve his sentence in the country where he was residing before committing the crime. That’s because he is familiar with that country and his relatives are living there. Anyway, Europe has decided on this and Romania is bound by it like other EU countries. What we are demanding Romania to do is agree immediately to the adoption of this European directive.’‘ euronews:’‘Let’s move to Afghanistan — what support have you offered the US?’‘ Franco Frattini: ‘‘Italy is already the third contributing NATO country in Afghanistan. We are also ready to accept further flexibility in the engagement of our troops. That doesn’t mean that their deployment will be shifting from one region to another. Yet, we will do more, we will deal with the political issue, because the Afghan-Pakistani political situation is more important, in the medium to long term, than a single military engagement. That’s a major interest for the Obama administration. And it will be at the centre of an international conference that, as current G8 president, we want to extend to other non G8 member states that are important regional players. And we will be assessing, along with the US administration, how to engage Iran. That is a major political aim, because Iran is a relevant regional player which shares hundreds of kilometres of its border with the Afghan province of Herat.’‘ euronews:’‘Have you got the support of your European partners? There is no trace of a common European foreign and security policy in this region. Everything is done under individual jurisdiction, isn’t it?’‘ Franco Frattini: ‘‘The main European partners are those who are already involved in the Afghan operation. They agree with the issues that will be at the centre of a conference to be held in Trieste, under the G8 presidency.’‘ euronews: ‘‘Opening the door to Iran is a major political and diplomatic challenge. Iran hasn’t given up its nuclear goals. Why is the West’s and especially the EU’s rhetoric changing with regard to this country?’‘ Franco Frattini:’‘This isn’t a blank cheque we’re giving Iran. There’s a dialogue of negotiation. I will raise this issue with the US administration. I have also spoken with my Iranian colleague because this approach by a country presiding over the G8 is a political first.’‘ euronews: ‘‘Isn’t this new approach to Iran taking place in the framework of the changing attitude of this new US administration towards Israel? It seems that it wants a separate policy compared with the traditional US-Israeli ties.’‘ Franco Frattini:’‘I think that trying this new approach is in the interests of our Israeli friends who feel threatened by Iranian nuclear proliferation and we need to reassure them.’‘